Why Republicans see a loss in the Supreme Court as a win at the polls
Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling upholding President Obama's health-care law gives Republicans a new case to repeal the law, hammer taxes, and rev up the party base.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Republicans were spurned by the Supreme Court on Thursday â€“ but if the reaction to the nationâ€™s highest court upholding President Obamaâ€™s signature health-care reform law is any indication, the GOP will do its best to ram the courtâ€™s decision down Democratsâ€™ throats between now and November.
â€śThe Supreme Court spoke today, but they will not have the final word,â€ť said Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R) of Washington, who is GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign point person on Capitol Hill. â€śThe American people will have the final word in November.â€ť
Had the court struck down the law in its entirety or in part, there may have been a need for legislative fixes to federal health-care law â€“ whether to reinstate popular provisions from the health-care reform bill or fix gaps blown open in the law by the Supreme Court, for example. But because the court upheld the law, the issue was powered straight into the realm of electoral politics.
Congressional Republicans, it became clear Thursday, are going to leverage the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision in two ways.
First, they are going to hammer health-care reform, a top issue for many in their conservative base. But this tactic alone risks falling into Democratic talking points that Republicans are stuck in the past and losing their focus on what both sides agree is the electionâ€™s No. 1 issue: the economy.
Thus, they are also going to make the case that the health-care law is a job killer â€“ and take it to the polls in November.
While Republican leaders were wary of discussing the political implications of the dayâ€™s decision, conservative advocacy and outside political groups were not so shy.
â€śWhile we would have preferred to see Obamacare struck down, this decision will drive Republican voter intensity sky-high,â€ť said Steven Law, the president of the granddaddy of all conservative "super political-action committees," Crossroads GPS. â€śThe last time Obamacare was litigated in a general election, Republicans picked up an historic number of seats in the US House and made big gains in the US Senate.â€ť
Mr. Law continued, in a statement: â€śOur message is that even if the Supreme Court couldnâ€™t protect Americans from what this law will do to their jobs and health care, voters can and will fight back. The Supreme Court effectively made the 2012 elections the most important in a century, and dramatically energized the center-right coalition in the process.â€ť
â€śThis government takeover of health care remains as destructive, unsustainable, and unconstitutional as it was the day it was passed, unread, by a since-fired congressional majority,â€ť Senator DeMint said in a statement. â€śNow, as then, our first step toward real health care reform and economic renewal remains Obamacareâ€™s full repeal, down to the last letter and punctuation mark.â€ť
As such, House Republicans announced Thursday that they would vote to repeal the health-care law on July 11, the week both chambers return from recess, for the second time since its passage. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, the measure will both undoubtedly pass and then assuredly die in the Democrat-held Senate.
But going after a full repeal has its downsides. For one, that tack risks being ripped asunder by Democrats who see the GOPâ€™sÂ fixation on health care as a way to paint the party as focusing on the past â€“ and not on jobs.
â€śNo one thinks this law is perfect. But Democrats have proven weâ€™re willing to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans are still struggling to find work,â€ť said Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada on the Senate floor Thursday. â€śOur first priority must be to improve the economy. Itâ€™s time for Republicans to stop refighting yesterdayâ€™s battles.â€ť
Moreover, there are popular provisions in the law â€“ such as changes that would allow young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26 and bar insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions â€“ that would be wiped away at the same time.
Republicans are â€śgoing to have a vote to say if you're a child and have a preexisting medical condition and no longer can be discriminated against, we're going to overturn that. If you're a senior and you're paying less for your prescription drugs and you're getting free preventive checkups and the rest, we're going to overturn that. If you're 26 years old and under â€¦ your parents' policy, pull the plug on that as well,â€ť said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) of California at a press conference Thursday.
And so Republicans will hammer home the message that the prevailing legacy of the health-care law is that it inhibits the American economy.
The first words from the lips of House Speaker John Boehnerâ€™s (R) of Ohio at a Thursday press conference? â€śThe presidentâ€™s health-care law is hurting our economy. Itâ€™s driving up health-care costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers,â€ť he said.
Moreover, the opinion of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts affirming the Affordable Care Actâ€™s individual mandate by saying the Congress has the right to levy taxes gave Republicans an ability to tie the health-care law to their favorite bugaboo of economic progress: taxes.
â€śHealth care is an extremely important, personal issue, and the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision to call the individual mandate what it is â€“ a tax on every American â€“ makes clear this law is not what President Obama sold to the American people,â€ť said Brad Dayspring, a former staffer for House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia and senior adviser to the YG Network, a GOP political-action committee.
That sentiment was echoed by numerous Capitol Hill Republicans.
"The American people now have a very clear choice,â€ť said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) of North Carolina, a registered nurse, in a statement. â€śThey can either support historic tax and spending increases, fiscal uncertainty, and unprecedented government overreach into nearly all aspects of their lives or join us in fighting to repeal this Obamacare tax and work for real solutions.â€ť
What is clear as the Supreme Court's decision reverberates around Capitol Hill is that the argument will be prosecuted through November and beyond.
â€śAmericans want us to start over,â€ť said Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky on the Senate floor. â€śTodayâ€™s decision does nothing to change that. The courtâ€™s ruling does not mark the end of the debate. It marks a fresh start on the road to repeal."